Small Black :: "Despicable Dogs"

On his way out of a major American city, a young man may become prone to fits of nostalgia and/or a desire for something cinematic to score the departure. Small Black with their fuzzy synths, persistent beats and surprisingly epic aesthetic have just the song. The chorus says it all, "do it without me/do it when I'm gone." Bright lights don't bore me - it's just time to move back to a more familiar florescence. Tonight, we sail over the Rockies. Tonight, we head for home.

Listen :: Small Black - "Despicable Dogs"


Princeton :: "Calypso Gold"

It is appropriate we close the whole 32ft West experiment with an LA band. Princeton, named for the street in Santa Monica where certain members of the band grew up, is a little slice of sweeping indie-pop. There are rich strings out of the George Harrison catalogue and flourishing guitars that sit high in the mix and don't leave. The arrangment pulses and waits and pulses and waits and, in this way, it has a sense of drama. On the whole (and I've driven on their street for one thing or another), it's a great little summer song. And it will always make me think of beaches, 73 and sunny, paddle tennis and this city. It's been fun, folks. I thank you.

Listen :: Princeton - "Calypso Gold"


32ft West :: New York v. California

We're in an active showdown between New York (where I live) and California (where I've been for a month). Now, putting your minds to rest: I won't be moving to Los Angeles. Great town, nice people, no real complaints; it's just not happening. Now, New York, this doesn't mean I'm entirely pleased with you either. Your weather has been a crap sandwich for the last nine months and I think we could improve some of the general snarkiness, bad attitudes and the hype machine body-slam thing we do. There are things we can learn from LA.

More specifically, the web traffic for the blog has taken an interesting turn. Usually, I stare at a map of the United States and Google colors in the states where people are viewing the blog. The darker the green, the more people who came that month. New York has always been dark green while the rest of the country was a smattering of lighter shades. Well, California is within striking distance of knocking New York out of the top spot for July. Texas, you are a distant third. Still, thank you. So, there are two days left in this crazy experiment and I guess I'll be fired up no matter who comes out on top. Some final thoughts:

1) Los Angeles, thank you for being so welcoming. There are a million little stories I could tell here but just generally, thanks. You know who you are. This is turning into a bad yearbook page.

2) New York, don't think of this month like cheating. I never really thought of leaving you. I just needed some perspective. Perhaps, just a minute to forget your flaws and reaffirm my place in your municipal boundaries. Well, I haven't not thought of you and I've booked concert schedule for August that should reconnect us completely. Did that sound believable? I've been practicing for weeks.

3) Texas: Maybe we'll do Austin next summer. You guys have a lot of heart.

Listen :: Memory Tapes - "Bicycle"

Miles Fisher :: "This Must Be The Place" [Video]

Things we know: Miles Fisher looks astonishingly like Tom Cruise. For the purposes of this video, he's transformed twice: once into Christian Bale and then once into Patrick Bateman. The song is David Byrne's "This Must Be The Place," though a more obviously layered version; the vocal loops end up being the back-bone of the arrangement. The concept is a cheeky take on Bale's American Psycho. In a complex and not-complex way, this is one of the best things I've seen in a while - the commitment, the attention to detail, and the (yep) execution are outstanding. You can go get Fisher's whole EP for free which includes the cover at MilesFisher.com.

Miles Fisher - This Must Be The Place (Cover) from Miles Fisher on Vimeo.

There is an idea of a Patrick Bateman; some kind of abstraction. But there is no real me: only an entity, something illusory. And though I can hide my cold gaze, and you can shake my hand and feel flesh gripping yours and maybe you can even sense our lifestyles are probably comparable... I simply am not there.

My First Earthquake :: "Cool In The Cool Way"

Debating hipster culture hasn't become a pastime, it has become American bloodsport. And San Francisco's My First Earthquake are lending their voice to the discussion. Their take: hipsters have created a zombie army marching on America's youth. I agree. If reading obscure Russian literature and wearing thick glasses made you an individual in 1990, it doesn't qualify you to work at American Apparel now. Hipsters manslaughtered individuality for the price of two v-neck t-shirts and a Belle & Sebastian import. In a sad attempt to define themselves, they destroyed any hope of definition and in the great American spirit: we all become that which we despised.

Unless. We break out. It isn't entirely too late. Remember, doing your own thing has much more to do with shutting other people out than listening yourself.

Listen :: My First Earthquake - "Cool In The Cool Way"


Red Wire Black Wire :: "Locked Out"

Brooklyn's Red Wire Black Wire have a name that intimates decisions from a bad action movie. Just how many films relied on the trite (and yet?) ending sequence where the protagonist must choose which wire to cut? My personal favorite? Executive Decision, a deceptive Kurt Russell and Steven Seagal (he eats it in the first 20 minutes) vehicle where bombs are seemingly autonomous, ever evolving, cryptic instruments. When oblique Arab villains aren't enough, just put a blind guy in the baggage hold and let him try to figure out complex explosives. High comedy.

Red Wire Black Wire probably don't care which one you cut. In fact, I suspect, they prefer if you rip the whole mess out of the box and let the thing explode. Drafting themselves out of Wesleyan (you make the MGMT comment, I won't) and rolling into Brooklyn, they are a rock band with a sense of propulsion. On "Locked Out" they harness synth-rock at its most mobile. Lyrically, they're talking about going to find your girlfriend (who is off the reservation) at a house party you're neither invited to nor welcome at. You can imagine this lyrical sequence ends with the protagonist having to fight his way out. Well, unless he cut both wires and blew the place to high hell. Dirty secret, explosives are dangerous as they are useful. Now cut.

Listen :: Red Wire Black Wire - "Locked Out"
Bonus :: Red Wire Black Wire - "Compass"


War Tapes :: "Dreaming of You"

High drama seems to attract its fair share of audience. A common counter-argument during college was that people just wanted things to be "chill." This was as boring as it was colloquial. Maybe a healthy balance between emotional adrenaline and placidity is for the best but in the moment of truth, at gunpoint, is it drama or boredom? Ask yourself, would rather work as a bank teller or plan a bank robbery? Maybe a revealing psychological question. War Tapes new single "Dreaming of You" might not have "indie rock" stamped on its chest but it is vault-blowing, get-away-car-riding, car-chasing dramatic.

What does it sound like? The Editors (or White Lies for that matter) playing a Cure song. "Dreaming of You" opens with the same suggestively lithe guitar-lines that made Robert Smith millions of dollars in the 1980s. Highlighter synths light the top of the arrangement before the whole mess collides into the chorus. The moment of high drama, the "give me all the money, hands in the air and nobody gets hurt" moment is at the three-minute mark. Coming out of the bridge the band gives us an unironic pause before unleashing five of the biggest guitar chords you'll hear this year. It's massive and unapologetic and thank God for that. Wake up, people. It's Monday.

Listen :: War Tapes - "Dreaming of You"


The Big Pink :: "Dominos"

If love isn't a battlefield, it might be a street fight. After yesterday's cloying meditation on relationships and heartbreak, we're prepared to move on to something else. And coming hotly tipped out of the UK, The Big Pink are more than prepared to handle it. Their record doesn't pretend to have all the answers but debut single, "Dominos" is one answer to the emotional Rubik's cube.

And if love is a street fight, this is surely the angle of the winner (if winning is, well, hurting). The hook lyric is "these girls fall like dominos." The implication is, obviously, that these girls fall far too quickly in love with the narrator. Whether you agree or disagree, he admits, "three words we shared too early on" and "as soon as I love her, it's been too long." Hell, it's vicious, uncompromising cruelty set against a massive industrial pop back-drop. Big Pink unleashes something that, I suspect, is deeply personal and commercially viable. If emotional pain can be marketed to those who feel victimized, you suppose it can be sold to those who inflict it. Is it possible that the felon has a defendant? Absolutely. The constitution more than promises it.

Listen :: Big Pink - "Dominos"
Bonus :: Big Pink - "Velvet"


Share :: "Penmanship"

Tonight, three of us went to see (500) Days Of Summer. Using pieces of High Fidelity for the elements of cultural name-checking and parts of Garden State for the sake of being needlessly precious (even in supposed unpreciousness) and gratuitously stylized, the movie actually holds on for most of its run time. In fact, it's good. And then the last scene happens. If you need to see it, see it. Like any artistic car-wreck, I understand. It's fascinating. But for a film that handles certain elements of relationships with relative care, the final scene is a categorical insult.

But the movie's best moments are the quiet ones. The moments that each relationship collects, wears smooth and keeps. These are the secrets, the meaningless minutiae. These are pretty and painful and over time, we become curators of a collective memory. And to be certain, after a relationship ends, it is this safety deposit box that is both hardest to open and hardest to throw away.

(500) Days handles these moments, and their crushing consequences, with incredible deftness. So I'll leave you with a song by Share about reading a girl's journal - it's got a little of Beck's Sea Change in it. It's about studying someones hand-writing. It's about distrust. It's about discovering nothing. If we can get mistaken for strangers by our own friends - just imagine what a significant other can do.

Listen :: Share - "Penmanship"


The Blakes :: "Basket"

We climbed to the top of Los Angeles yesterday. It almost cost us our lives. In an unrelated story, we didn't see any celebrities. The climb was brutal at times, in part owing to our off-the-map route but, as always, no regrets. But standing on top of the city - a place we have (I'll paraphrase) come to know - was nothing short of powerful. The scope is shocking. This place is enormous.

Today, we head east to tackle Joshua Tree. We're going to avoid any cheap U2 comments. But as we burn into the high desert and assault natural beauty with our natural disaster, we'll need a good soundtrack. The Blakes are from the northwest, but sound like unrelenting sunshine shot through a twitchy guitar with a recreational opiate habit. Like a post-Dandy Warhols with guts, they don't reveal themselves until the post-chorus when an insistent guitar back-beat becomes the moment of their single, "Basket." Otherwise, they sound like pavement consumed and dry heat with a blue canopy of no relief. Highs of 105? Like a lot of things, it's a dry heat.

Listen :: The Blakes - "Basket"


On The List :: Monday Residencies or how to get around Silverlake on less than busfare

Los Angeles is a permutation of New York with a mildly less bad attitude. Part of that charm is that on Monday nights some of the venues out in Silverlake host bands for month long residencies. The shows are free and the bills are packed front-to-back with bands looking to break. New York has Piano's four-week residencies but this makes that looks positively fascist. Out here the people know each other. The band doesn't have to scrap and claw for a crowd because there isn't a cover. The bar pulls down some scratch. If Los Angeles has a charming moment, it is after 9pm on Mondays in East LA.

We begin the night with Spirit Vine opening for what will eventually be Last American Buffalo's show at Silverlake Lounge. Their lead-singer has a strange Drew Barrymore meets Karen O-thing going on. The music is something like sounds like The Gossip playing Ambulance LTD songs. It's not easy to play the 9pm slot on Monday. It's like doing stand-up comedy in a car wash. Whether people think you're good or not, they just came for something else.

Following Spirit Vine is the criminally underrated Steelwells. This band talks too much, let's say that upfront. They're not uncharming but it's distracting and doesn't advance the moment. But, the music, if mixed correctly and turned completely loose is great. They play a short six-song set rife with equipment difficulties (the lead singer calls this "a nightmare") and a crowd that moves from the back of the room to the front. In long exposure photograph, the audience would appear as a slowly advancing blur. This is a good sign. It has to be.

Then it was over to the Echoplex to catch the 11pm set by The Japanese Motors. A signee to Vice Records, the band has generated some buzz on the west coast and beyond. The first three songs are, frankly, strange. Lead singer, Alex Knost isn't connecting with the crowd. He is blowing the room away with spastic movements and thrashing gestures. It's a weird moment; when the singer is more motivated than his band, when he's more motivated than the crowd. Part of you wants to remind the people smoking outside that, yes, they did come to see this band. And predictably, the room fills and Japanese Motors hit its stride. Knost is more at ease and crushes the second-half of the set. Were they consistently good? No. Were they mercurial at moments? Absolutely. And for a Monday in July, that's about right.

Listen :: The Japanese Motors - "B.N.E."
Bonus :: The Japanese Motors - "Single Fins and Safety Pins"


Free Energy :: "Free Energy"

About 60% of the time I write things that are aimed at specific people I know. Sometimes I name them but mostly I don't. Mostly, those unnamed people know who they are. And rarely, I'll listen to something that applies to a group of people I know and like a great deal; all my friends. "Free Energy" by Free Energy is that last type of song. You plural are great.

They say that youth is wasted on the young. In your case, I suspect they were incorrect (this is sourced material). Pack up your belongings and move to Thrash City. You've been receiving mail there for years anyways. There's an apartment building full of everyone you know and the rooftop looks at something dramatic.

This weekend alone you were in New York and San Diego and Los Angeles and Boston and Texas and San Francisco and Germany. I am leaving places out. You slept in your cars and jumped the gaps between roofs. You said goodbye to some people and met others. You climbed trees and stayed up too late. You went north. You laughed at stupid catch phrases and shared new ones. You beat the game. You let yourself have fun.

We might be seperate but this song makes me think of you plural.

Listen :: Free Energy - "Free Energy"


Why? :: "This Blackest Purse"

Why? is dropping their second record with lead track "This Blackest Purse." It's a little bit of late Yo La Tengo. It's a thoughtful, Charlie Brown piano-riff set in direct opposition with a graveled vocal. The hurt doesn't come until the chorus when the question: " Mom, am I failing or worse?" is delivered with a finishing kick. It would foolish to speculate what the narrative in the "Blackest Purse" holds. But, in the second verse, we get, "I want to speak at an intimate decibel/with the precision of an infinite decimal." If this doesn't get you - if this doesn't get you a little bit - well, I don't think you can be gotten.

Listen :: Why? - "This Blackest Purse"


Julian Casablancas announces solo record [Video]

Julian Casablancas has officially gone the way of his band mates and will be releasing a solo album in the coming months. It will be called Phrazes For The Young. The video preview gets moving at the halfway point. Connections are drawn between organic form and human creation (it's like the record industry, people!). Finally, we enter a prism and a vaguely Aztec design, as messages like "try not to give advice you can't follow" and "drunkness is cowardice, sobriety is loneliness" flash in time.

The music? Well, it sounds epic. It sounds like Julian is putting everyone on notice. If you're going to screw around and make a solo record. At least, do it right.

Bloc Party :: "One More Chance" [Video] + Alex Metric Remix

The video for Bloc Party's "One More Chance" is one of the more winning things you'll run across today. The narrative is based out of a variety of vignettes, all concerning ideas of hurt, passion and grace in the face of failure. Opening with the picture of awkwardness on the piano and Matt Tong responds with disgust mixing into bemusement and then (is it possible?) respect. Kele is paired with an overly made-up woman, preparing for lust and waiting for heartbreak. It's powerful stuff.

Listen :: Bloc Party - One More Chance" (Alex Metric Remix)


Wolf Gang :: "Pieces Of You" (Baby Monster Remix)

Over dinner last evening I mistakenly thought it was Monday night. It wasn't. We laughed. In this way LA has a familiarity and also lacks boundaries. When the weather never changes and the people intentionally deny the relevance of aging, it can be awfully hard to place yourself in time and space. I mean, this looks real.

This town is a completely surrealist reimagining of the American city. It's a piece of post-modernism in a few steps.

First, take the center out and spread it around. Downtown? Yeah, that's way over there - and no one goes there unless they have to. For your purposes, learn the neighborhoods. Each one has a different localized gravity but no overall coherence. Downtown, it's in a million little pieces. You'll pick it up.

Second, take the best parts of other places and make them louder or brighter or bigger. You like it sunny? We can do that. All the time. Warm? Done, how 'bout hot? You like driving your car? Sure, keep it - there will just be 9 million other people who also keep their cars. You want to live near the beach and in a city? Sure, it's doable; maybe a geographical deal with the devil, I mean, we put it on a major fault line. You could always just fall into the ocean. It's the price you pay.

Third, unlike other towns with a diversity of industry and profession, we will center everything around one industry - which, believe it or not, is an industry all about make-believe. Yes, everyone will work promoting or selling or defending or marketing or suing or hating entertainment. This is a town of people in bed with fiction. It's art. Completely. Divorced. From meaning. You can't make this up.

Which makes LA kind of like a remixed version of a good song. Weird, not particularly original, but maybe better in some ways - teasing the best parts out and making them louder. Putting the chorus first. You should already know Wolf Gang. But here's the remix of "Pieces Of You" by Baby Monster.

Listen :: Wolf Gang - "Pieces of You" (Baby Monster Remix)


On The List :: Rural Alberta Advantage @ The Echo [7.10.09]

It's the little things that matter; like the tiny (maybe pink) twist-tie around keyboardist Amy Cole's right-pinkie finger. Set against a back-drop of old Smiths' videos at the Echo, The Rural Alberta Advantage bring their admittedly small group of songs to Los Angeles for the first time. The band is visibly impressed by the size and energy of the crowd. The crowd, if we can speak in the universal plural, is visibly impressed by the band. And this might be a small coincidence but it really counts.

For a first-record tour, the band has no choice but to play their album. There is an earnestness (though I suspect they will tire of this description in time) or a forthrightness about playing your catalogue in full that suits the band well. Breezing through album favorites "Four Night Rider," "Edmonton" and "Don't Haunt This Place" in an eire blue and pink light, lead singer Nils Edenloff is every bit the cathartic frontman. These songs are crushingly personal; about places and things that are or were deeply affecting. Before the rolling "Frank, AB," Edenloff explains the song's genesis in a town of the same name and the lethal rock-slide left unexcavated for thirty years. "It's creepy but I guess it's good for a dance song." Edenloff laughs a little and the Smiths' DVD loop begins to show a live performance of "Girlfriend In A Coma."

Headed undeniably for an encore the band leaves the stage. Edenhoff comes back alone armed only with a moving cover of "Eye of the Tiger." It is unironic, if this is possible, and not entirely devoid of the athletic overtones of the original; "I got claw-finger there for a minute," says Edenloff. Cole and drummer Paul Banwatt return to the stage. It would be easy to make the Neutral Milk Hotel comparison as the title screen for "Stop Me If You Think You've Heard This One Before" flashes across the backdrop. But the crowd isn't stopping this band. For a second encore, Banwatt says, "really, we've only got one more song." The crowd keeps clapping. He means it and so do we. And that might be a small coincidence but it counts.

Listen :: The Rural Alberta Advantage - "Don't Haunt This Place"
Bonus :: The Rural Alberta Advantage - "Frank, AB"


On The List :: These United States @ The Echoplex [7.9.09]

Jesse Elliot, lead singer of These United States, wields an acoustic guitar like I imagine John Dillinger mastered semi-automatic weapons. Elliot addresses the instrument like a weapon, like a suit of armor, like a partner in crime. He points it like a firearm and were it not an acoustic guitar, and instead an object of war, I suspect, we would all be dead.

It is a sparse crowd and the opening band, over shots of whiskey at the bar, already comments "this is the worst show we've ever played." Luckily, The United States don't play for who is in the audience. Elliot approaches the opening song "West Won' with an element of reserve. I use this descriptor carefully. More appropriately, Elliot won't leave the ballpark of frenetic for the next 40-minutes. He sweats through the sleeve of his shirt. People don't do this often and Elliot works like few front men in the business.

Working through a mixture of their last two albums and a record forthcoming, These United States lay low and tight - it would still be fair to say they do their best work when they sit on the front half of alt-country. Playing "First Sight" from their first album, in the middle of the set, Elliot's delivery is sharp and rapid-fire. It's not the band's best song but it's close. Further proof of an evolving art-form comes in the last song of the night.

Elliot says, "we're calling this 'the new sound.'" He doesn't mean the title of the song. It is, in fact, "I Want You To Keep Everything," the first single off the band's forthcoming LP. It's the kind of song that would put Demolition-era Ryan Adams on notice. It is the kind of song that would send Gold-era Ryan Adams running for his life from the neighborhood. In its own way destructive and elevating, "I Want Your To Keep Everything" is the moment you would remember. The guitarist to Elliot's right is thrashing and finally turned loose. The band is in perfect form.

We pass Jesse Elliot on the way out of The Echoplex. "Great set, man." It's a weak entry. He nods and says an earnest "thank you." We are headed opposite directions. We hit the street. He wipes his face and heads for the merch table.

Listen :: These United States - "I Want You To Keep Everything"


Generationals :: "When They Fight, They Fight"

One of my favorite bands when I graduated college was The Eames Era. They were from New Orleans, wrote great pop songs and toured through New York every six-months. I was sold. The band fell apart in the last year. I wasn't immediately worried. For a band that survived a horrific van accident and hurricane Katrina, I'll bet their break-up didn't even earn a blink. And out of their separation rose Generationals, featuring two members of The Eames Era and some sonic similarities. Their debut record drops on July 21.

First single, "When They Fight, They Fight" is a bouncy piece of throw-back pop. It opens with hand-claps, a carry over from The Eames Era perhaps, and a plaintive keyboard line that seems ripped from a movie montage. From there the song settles in with go-go rhythm and up-stroke guitars. The chorus, an androgynous vocal featuring the title line, will stay in your head for days. Glistening "ooohs" wrap the melody in the type of sunlit afternoon you can only get in zip codes beginning with 90. This could be The Legends playing Beulah songs. Can something be both lo-fi and uplifting? Only if a band can break up and bring us something this good.

Listen :: Generationals - "When They Fight, They Fight"
Bonus :: Generationals - "Wildlife Sculpture"


Interview :: The Traditionist [7.7.09]

We shot some emails back and forth with Joey Barro from The Traditionist. We got his band name wrong the first two times we wrote about him. He makes sure to clarify. We silently apologize and think we should go to j-school. Most importantly, he's got one of the best records this year and you should be listening to him.

32feet: Being that your band is basically you and a rotating cast of musicians, describe the writing process. Is it collaborative or more unilateral?

The Traditionist (TT): I write all the songs on my own and that usually remains the core of the song...when recording Season to Season, only a couple of the songs had been played live before we tracked them, so those songs adapted in the live setting...I think that was the case for driftwood doll and a sleep be told...other than that, the instrumentation and orchestration of the songs developed in the studio...the core of the songs, like the lyrics and general arrangement, stays pretty much the same to what I originally write.

32feet: The record Season to Season is incredibly delicate in places. How does that translate when you play the songs live?

TT: Well, the translation live is dictated by the musicians who I am working with at the time...I have played all of these songs live at one point, and sometimes we stick closely to how they are displayed on the record...that is, if there are keys, synth, etc...I like to keep it gentle and specific to the record if we have the tools to do so...other than that, if the instruments are more limited, it has been cool to let it loose and see what happens with the energy.

32feet: The lyrics of the songs must be deeply personal. Do you find that fans and listeners "get" what the songs are about or are they developing their own reads and reactions?

TT: I like to think that both are happening...maybe each listen is different...I know for me, a song may have an intitial inspiration for why it was originally written, but every time thereafter, the song may change meanings and reasons for playing...I hope listeners like the possibility of an initial reason for why the song is there, but develop their own ideas for what that song may mean to them.

32feet: Can you explain a little about the background on "Driftwood Doll," maybe the most haunting song on the album?

TT: I've always liked the idea of looking forward...it is nice to remember things how you want to remember them sometimes, and not necessarily how it actually was...i think this song is a keyhole into that type of thinking..just to roll with it may be the best thing to do...it may come off haunting because i think that idea is not always the easiest thing to do, it does have the happiest ending though

32feet: Favorite venues or cities to play?

TT: best venue so far for me has been the great american music hall in san francisco...i've always had great times in Seattle, San Diego, Sac and Sf...i've been pretty specific to the west coast and l.a. and oc are little too familiar for me

32feet: Who are your favorite bands writing and recording now? And further back, who are your major influences?

TT: i usually reach back for my inspirations a bit, though my influences range from paul simon to radiohead...recently I've started getting familiar with gene clark from the byrds

32feet: Do you feel pressure to make a living solely as a musician? And at what point would you give up your day-job?

TT: no, I don't really feel any pressure about making a living with the music...i think if the money is there it is there and if its not, then I just have to do what I need to do to continue writing, recording, and playing the music...as far as quiting a day job, i'd probably cross that bridge when it's safe to cross

32feet: What should people absolutely know about your band?

The Traditionist: it's the traditionist, not the traditionalist

Listen :: The Traditionist - "I Know My Ocean"
Bonus :: The Traditionist - "No Self Portrait"
Bonus :: The Traditionist - "A Sleep Be Told"


On The List :: Last American Buffalo + Eastern Conference Champions @ Silverlake Lounge [7.6.09]

Last American Buffalo have a name that communicates extermination. In fact, their set isn't going to be left for dead. It is the first of a month-long residency at the Silverlake Lounge. On this night, they take the stage just before 11pm in the west. They are immediately impressive. The sound-check took too long, sure, and some of their affect isn't perfect but this band is low and tight. No set-list but a little less than an hour of American roots-rock; take it or leave it.

Things aren't perfect. Lead singer, Kevin Compton, blows a string on his acoustic in the second song. Compton doesn't show the strain, instead leading his over-sized band through a set of propulsive American rock. It has its moments and it has its moments where you wish something else was happening. Last American Buffalo are good. But they weren't the best band on the bill.

If you rewind 90-minutes, Eastern Conference Champions are taking the stage. They are a disjointed trio but they don't play like it. Lead singer, Josh Ostrander, squeezes his vocals out of the side of his mouth in something that approaches catharsis. Playing lead guitar, Melissa Dougherty has to be one of the best women playing in rock. She is illuminating and moving, soloing in equal frenzy as high-fret thrash. She might be the best part of this band.

Without even playing 2007 single, "The Box," the band rips through an eight-song set built to destroy. Opening with "To The World" and closing with the elevated "Atlas," the band still fit in upcoming single "Common Sense." The sum-total is built on strong opening movements and crushing, wave-of-sound closers. The band leaves the stage after clustering around and pounding on the drums. It is an explosive moment and part of you thinks there isn't a better band in this whole town. You just might be right.

Listen :: Eastern Conference Champions - "The Box"


32ft West :: Fool's Gold :: "Surprise Hotel"

The experiment in LA-living begins. We crashed, almost literally, on the the tarmac of John Wayne Airport in Orange County, rented a car and drove north. Approaching Los Angeles is never impressive for its skyline but there remains something approaching drama about the whole affair. The traffic thickens, the city's trademark punchline, and the low-urban development is noticeably denser. Finally, hills and skyline emerge. If you've been here before, you know the ocean is just to your left. The geographic feeling is always of mountains crashing into ocean and a city spread out like a blanket over the whole tectonic negotiation. We want to lift the blanket.

It is appropriate to start the next month, the whole 32ft West experience off with an LA band. Fool's Gold is made up of Foreign Born's guitarist and a rotating cast of up to 12-members. They make unabashed afro-beat pop. It reminds me of summers in upstate New York with Paul Simon's Rhythm of the Saints blaring out of my mom's Nissan Sentra. "Surprise Hotel" is a nearly perfect summer tune. It thumps and pulses, while guitar arpeggios explode like tracer fire. Clocking in at nearly seven minutes, the song has a second movement with horns and chanting vocals. This band and I are colliding at the perfect time. To paraphrase Michael Chabon, I anticipate a coming month of dilated time ....

Listen :: Fool's Gold - "Surprise Hotel"


The Avett Brothers :: "I and Love and You"

Later, New York. I trust that these words will still ring true in August. We are headed North (and by North I mean West and South a little). Take care of yourselves. 


Happy Birthday, America.

Being an American in 2009 is a confusing assignment. We are supposed to be proud - this is what we're accused of anyways. We are supposed to be ashamed - a simple catalogue of our misdeeds would suffice. We are supposed to be waiting for the end - you know, us being the New Rome and all. So we are arrogant, self-critical, fatalists? Actually, sounds about right.

To the holiday at hand: the Fourth of July. It is a time when we sit outside, cook over open fire and celebrate sending the British home without their supper 233 years ago. The British, ironically, do not have a similar holiday for burning down the White House in 1814 during the War of 1812. Maybe this is why they are not a Superpower. Superpowers, after all, remain excellent at celebrating their success. Look at Russia: no celebrating, instant failure of political system, rejection of Superpower status. Not pretty.

We are and are not everything everyone says about us. We are not a broker of freedom. We aren't Satan. We're just a tiny rebellious colony dramatically morphed into the biggest economy and military in world history; all in less than 25 decades. It's an infomercial success story (actual results may differ). So, as the discussion of what it means to be an American continues, remember this: Don't believe the hype. We're just a little band who went to radio and were rewarded with massive popular support and massive popular backlash. We're doing our best and we'll try to remember where we came from. 


Your Twenties :: "Billionaires"

Your Twenties' latest single "Billionaires" has a 25% chance of being the "Kids" of this summer. It's not MGMT's psych-synth rock. In fact, Your Twenties play something slicker and harder to pull off. This is sunshine and slick harmony mixed with a double shot of jet-fuel and a car ripping over a sand dune directly into the ocean. In slow motion. 

For band comparisons: "Billionaires" sounds like Phoenix's "1901" if "1901" had a kept a notebook of writings through high school and college. It's just a little more thoughtful. It's a little bit of The Format and a little bit of The Features' "Blow It Out" (Seriously, the parallels are scary). It's completely controlled bombast. Which is exactly why I'm leaving for California in two days. 

Musically, the reason it will remind you of MGMT's anthem is the instantly singable line of "ooo's" in the chorus. Remember the first time you heard the snotty synth-riff from "Kids?" Those ten notes that were non-negotiably going to be stuck in your head. "Billionaires" has the same quality; perfect for mindless singing and moving around. Sign us up. Enjoy your weekend. Happy almost birthday, America. 


New Roman Times :: "Smoke In Your Disguise"

I am cleaning out my life today because I am moving apartments. Without being overly sentimental, when cleaning out a bedroom you run into artifacts that jog your memory. In this case, it was a schedule. Written in my best hand-writing on a piece of Virgin Records stationary, this was my road-map to CMJ 2007. Sitting in the 9pm slot at the Mercury Lounge on one night in October was Airborne Toxic Event. Funny thing is, I went to see the other show on my schedule: Cut Off Your Hands, Foreign Born, and Oh No! Oh My! But I had Airborne Toxic on the schedule. And that means something.

So across my inbox comes New Roman Times and their suggestion that they might remind me of Airborne Toxic Event. First it's definitely weird that ATE has gone from CMJ after-thought in 2007 to playing for 50 people at Piano's last June to being in publicists' emails as an instantly recognizable, popular artist. For the record, Airborne Toxic Event will be playing Webster Hall next time they come through New York. I'd love to say I didn't call this.

But back to New Roman Times, they do remind me of Airborne Toxic Event or perhaps of a more bombastic Moonbabies. The churning arena-guitars and the crushing lyrics, forget the dance-ready, urgent drums - it all adds up to something big and moving. In the second verse, the guitars pump and the lead-singer crushes "I'll be there right from the start/I'll be there when you fall apart/I'll be the smoke in your disguise." It's about getting away, I think; a dynamic rescue from some unknown threat. It's worth noting the chorus is, "you're breaking my heart/you're breaking my heart/but before we begin/we better learn how to start." This is built for radio and not in an uncredible way either. Airborne Toxic Event isn't a bad comparison. So when you have a chance to see New Roman Times, don't miss it.

Listen :: New Roman Times - "Smoke In Your Disguise"